By Jan C. Ting
I've described Gov. Christie as a smart politician who deserved to be the front-runner among Republicans who want to be president. I take it all back.
We've had thin-skinned, petty, vindictive, power-abusing presidents before. We don't want another one.
Christie's character was revealed by e-mails showing his administration deliberately clogged traffic headed for the George Washington Bridge, apparently to punish Fort Lee's mayor, Mark Sokolich, who had refused to endorse the governor in his reelection campaign. The administration seemed willing to endanger public safety, even children, to punish those perceived to be political enemies. One of the leaked e-mails dismissed the victims as "the children of Buono voters," referring to Christie's Democratic opponent in last year's gubernatorial race, Barbara Buono.
Christie claims to have had no knowledge of a conspiracy within his administration to punish the mayor of Fort Lee. Like the police chief in the movie Casablanca, he is shocked, shocked to discover what transpired.
But only last month, he mocked those who questioned the motives of his administration in restricting bridge traffic. Even if you hope he's not a liar, he could and should have uncovered all the facts before mocking those concerned citizens.
Now Christie claims that he's the real victim. He said he fired a deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, not because she blatantly ordered the traffic jam in Fort Lee, but because she allegedly lied to him. Christie also directed adviser Bill Stepien to withdraw his name from consideration as state Republican Party chairman and to end his consulting arrangement with the Republican Governors Association, which Christie chairs. The governor is throwing his staff under the bus in a desperate attempt to keep his presidential ambitions alive. I look forward to hearing their testimony under oath about what happened.
At best, Christie is an incompetent manager who couldn't be bothered to notice an epic traffic jam in his state. At worst, he's a criminal who misappropriated state resources to punish his perceived enemies.
Anyone familiar with politics knows that political aides demonstrate their loyalty by fulfilling the wishes of their bosses. Even if it can't be proven that Christie gave the order for the traffic restrictions in Fort Lee, he has long had a reputation for petty vindictiveness against anyone demonstrating independence from the Christie line.
The governor and his administration have deliberately cultivated the image of a tough guy and a bully, releasing videos of his insults to people asking questions he didn't like.
If a politician has to say, "It's not about the money," it probably is about the money. If someone has to say, "I am not a crook," he probably is a crook. And when Christie has to say, "I am not a bully," he clearly lacks the temperament to be president of the United States.
Christie stated in his Jan. 9 press conference and in the preface to his State of the State speech on Tuesday that he is responsible for the actions of his administration. We should take him at his word and hold him accountable for what happened in Fort Lee.
Depending on the testimony taken during investigations of this scandal, New Jersey may or may not be stuck with Christie as governor for the duration of his term. But we need to ensure that he never becomes president - especially those of us on his enemies list.